iClicker to Engage Students

Students using iClickers in the classroom

Professor Tara Ashok Uses iClickers to Engage Biology Students

iClickers, the polling system widely used at UMass Boston, allows students to answer multiple choice questions posed by their instructors using hand-held remote devices. Professor Tara Ashok uses iClickers to gain valuable feedback from her students, increase student participation and engagement, as well as provide opportunities for student self-assessment in her Biology classes. iClickers can be equally effective in large as well as small classes. She has used them in the large lecture halls with over 100 students as well as in smaller classrooms with 35 students.

iClickers serve as an ice breaker. Tara likes to ask ice breaker questions. She starts her first class by displaying a PowerPoint slide to ask her students “How do you feel about Biology?” There is no right or wrong answer and students see right away that iClickers can actually be fun! At the same time the students get used to using the iClicker system in the classroom. The students use their iClicker remotes to answer the questions when it’s time to vote, and Tara displays a chart to the students showing how many students voted for A. Love it! B. Like it.  C. It’s ok.  or D. Hate it! to the “How do you feel about Biology?” question she displayed.

iClickers help students become more actively engaged in the classroom. Students less likely to answer questions in a typical classroom feel less inhibited because they know the other students in the class can’t see what answer they have given. Tara also gives class participation points to students whether they answer a question correctly or not so they are not penalized if they don’t know the correct answer. And if they do know the correct answer, they’ll get extra points.

iClickers help students test their own knowledge. Tara asks the students questions to assess what concepts the students have mastered and she can tell if they are ready to take a test. Tara asks questions similar to the ones that are going to be on an exam before the actual exam date and students have to commit to an answer. Clicking a button to answer gives students immediate feedback and lets them know if they are ready for a test or if they have to study more.

iClickers provide valuable feedback for instructors too. Tara can also get a sense of how the students feel about the tests they have taken, whether they were too difficult, too easy or somewhere in between. She can even get feedback about how a test was given. One semester Tara decided she would try having the students take an exam online using Blackboard Learning Management System in a proctored setting. Later when she asked the students iClicker questions about how they felt about this test delivery method, she received overwhelmingly positive responses from students. She can also see how the opinions of her students change over time. She poses the same “How do you feel about Biology?” question at the end of the semester and she finds it rewarding when she sees that many students change their minds over the course of the semester, ending up liking Biology when they disliked it before.

Would you like to give iClickers a try in your classroom? Contact us at elearning@umb.edu for more information.